Ahoy ahoy!  It’s been a blustery weekend here in Sackville– autumn is out in full force, it would seem.  It’s my favourite season.  Cozy sweaters, apple pies, the smoky smell of leaves burning…and of course the leaves themselves!  Coming from a land of evergreens, the sight of the leaves changing here in the Maritimes is truly a sight to behold! And on that note, I’m going to dive into the discussion we had last class about the Group.

The articles we had a read for class on Thursday were centred around the Group, but in a very critical way.  Two articles we looked at were from a position of revisionist art history, which resulted in some very in depth and serious critique.  The other article looked at the concept of ownership in regards to the McMichael collection..

These first two articles pegged the Group as creating art for a “nation” that they felt only included white males, as the Group was only made up of white males.  They critique the group as being marginalizing to minority groups and women and racist.  They say that there is clear influence of European painting style and technique in the work, which makes the concept of it being “art of Canada” ironic and contradictory.

The main issue I have with revisionist art history, is the fact that neither one of these authors seemed to pay any attention whatsoever to the fact that, during the times when these works were being created, marginalizing women and minority groups was generally accepted as not really that big of an issue.  I’m not saying this is right, at all, but I do feel that taking things out of context can be detrimental to the way other people look at it.  Do we even know for a fact that this was the aim of the Group?  The intentions that have been derived from their work has more been formulated in the way it has been presented to the public.  The entire McMichael Canadian Art Collection is devoted to preserving a sense of nationalistic purism, even going so far as to refuse particular pieces because they weren’t seen as fitting with the unified Canadian image that the collection was supposedly wanting to portray.  The National Gallery, too, has put on shows of the Group’s work and the exhibitions have always seemed to be centred around portraying a “nation’s art”.  Who is more at fault, the Group for wanting to create art out of theire love for exploring the Canadian landscape, or the galleries, who have perpetuated this stereotypical image of the Group and their contemporaries?

The Group was known for wanting to portray a pure landscape, often painting over houses and other aspects of civilisation in their work.  The want to portray a landscape void of human contact does not necessarily transfer over to wanting to portray a purist Canada.  It’s important to remember that these paintings were meant to be going into peoples homes, the Group wanted to create work that would be enjoyed by everyone, which is why they worked with such small canvasses.  The criticism put onto them by these two articles is interesting, due to the fact that so often, when we reflect on the past, it seems that issues that were never present in the work beforehand are created.   Have we put the Group on too much of a pedestal as a cornerstone for the foundations of Canadian art, or are these articles merely the more extreme negative side of the critique surrounding the Group’s work?  We can’t know for sure, but it definitely cannot be denied that the Group got the ball rolling for recognition of a newer style, though it is influenced by European paintings.  However, doesn’t every movement grow out of something that came before?  Food for thought, my readers!

That’s all for now!